As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mk.10:17)
Each one of us can readily identify with this man because we all carry in our hearts the same question he had asked Jesus. As we have reflected last Sunday, it is one of the FAQ’s of all time to Jesus next to the Pharisees’ “is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”(Mk. 10: 2) In our reflection last week, we also said how Jesus answered both questions by bringing us back to God who is our ultimate source and end in life. Last Sunday, Jesus explained how God planned our relationships “in the beginning” when He created man and woman while today He tells us what to do to inherit eternal life. So, what is to go back to God?
First, going back to God to inherit eternal life is reading and studying the Sacred Scriptures prayerfully. We always meet God in His words found in the Bible. In enumerating to the man some of the commandments, Jesus reminds us to always consult and fulfill the Laws handed down by Moses in the Old Testament. Moreover, the second reading today assures us that “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.” (Heb.4:12-13) His words are living because God is living for He Himself is life, personally speaking to us in the Sacred Scriptures!
Second, going back to God to inherit eternal life is acting on His words by forgetting one’s self in Christ, taking our cross to follow Him. It is not enough to desire God, to read and listen to His words. Remember how Herod also loved to listen to the words by John the Baptist and later of Jesus Christ but never had the courage heed them. We need to have courage to go back to God because He would always direct us to places and instances we never imagined as Jesus told Peter before His ascension at Tiberias. See how Mark presented to us today the progression of the teaching of Jesus to that man. Before replying to his question, Jesus chided him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mk.10:18) Christ must have seen something deeper with this man that right away He directed him to God through His Laws as the answer to his question. The man was sincere with his question, unlike the Pharisees last Sunday who asked only to “test” Jesus. The Lord must have seen him as a possible disciple being a “just man of Israel” who was molded by observance to the Laws, truly searching and waiting for the Messiah and day of salvation. Then, in a dramatic fashion as recorded by Mark, the Lord challenged him to leave everything behind for God: Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” (Mk.10:21)
Oh how we are very much like that man again, when our faces would fall as we walk away sad from the loving face of Jesus because we could not give up so many possessions we value more than God! Going back to God means “something’s gotta give” – are we willing to let go of ourselves and of our possessions to inherit eternal life? In 2003, Jack Nicholson and Dianne Keaton starred in a movie called “Something’s Gotta Give” that is about giving up one’s self, offering some sacrifices to experience real love, real peace and real joy. All the more are these true if we want to inherit eternal life when we choose God more than anything! This was the reflection of the author of the Book of Wisdom in the first reading: he had realized while in a progressive and affluent society of the Greek world at that time that everything in life fades and passes away except Wisdom which is the personification of God: “Yet all good things together came to me in her company, and countless riches at her hands.” (Wis.7:11)
Last Tuesday, there were two massive gatherings of people in the country: one at the Manila Cathedral where the relic of the incorrupt heart of St. Padre Pio was venerated and the other were at the various lotto outlets scattered throughout our archipelago. The sights have reminded me of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that perfectly describe them: “It was the best of times, the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity… we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.” What I just want to share here is the contrast of the scenes: the people more concerned with life here on earth, of instantly becoming rich by hitting the one billion peso prize despite the odds of one in 40 million and those wishing for miracles who braved the sun and the rains for six hours just to get near the relic of the incorrupt heart of St. Pedro Pio. There is nothing really wrong with betting in lotto and in venerating a relic; problem is when people see them as an end in itself, giving rise to “gambling mentality” and “spiritualization”. The former is the attitude of some people wishing to get rich without working hard while the latter is a simplistic view on leap of faith. Something’s gotta give if we want to be rich and be blessed! But if we are wise, we would rather be working to inherit eternal life because it is something Christ has assured us already when He offered Himself on the Cross.“All things are possible for God” in the sense that He does everything to get us back with Him in heaven that is for everyone unlike winning the lotto that is so exclusive to just one or two winners. How unwise that many of us would rather still do whatever is needed to win that elusive jackpot than have that assured salvation in Christ!
When we come to consider everything, we realize that what we must really do to inherit eternal life is to be like children. Twice in these past four weeks that Jesus had taught the need to be like children. When we examine His life and teachings from His birth to His death and resurrection, everything in Jesus was being like a child, of abandoning His self completely to the Father like a child because “the kingdom of God belongs to children… whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mk.10:14-15) Children teach us many lessons about giving up everything for the most valuable thing they can have. This is the attitude Christ demands from us if we wish to join Him in His journey back to Jerusalem, back to God. AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. Email: email@example.com
Photo from Google.